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Don’t forget your veterans benefits

By Jennie L. Phipps · Bankrate.com
Sunday, October 7, 2012
Posted: 6 am ET

My husband and I spent the weekend at a reunion of the men who served on the USS William M. Wood, a U.S. Navy destroyer. The reunion is annually timed to coincide with Columbus Day, which honors Christopher Columbus who sailed to the New World and opened the doors to life here.

Only about 100 former sailors and their spouses attended our reunion -- a small segment of the thousands of men who served their country aboard the Wood. Because the Wood was launched during World War II and continued to be in service through the Vietnam War, nearly everyone who attended was at or near retirement.

We go every year and we always have a good time talking to friends. This time one of the most popular topics was what it takes to live well in this tough economy. Several of the guys said they were relying on the Veterans Affairs' health care benefits. That struck me as an idea that lots of people could incorporate in their own retirement planning.

Many vets find it much cheaper to rely on VA health care instead of Medicare. Veterans enrolled in the VA medical benefits package and not enrolled in Medicare avoid Medicare premiums, deductibles and co-insurance.

Some vets find it best to combine parts of Medicare -- for instance, Part A for which there is no additional charge -- with VA care, opting out of Medicare Parts B and D.

The VA also provides extensive nursing home and home-based care for both veterans and, in some cases, spouses. The most popular program is known as Aid and Attendance.

Almost anyone who served honorably in the U.S. military is eligible for VA benefits, and those veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam between 1962 and May 7, 1975 are eligible for enhanced benefits.

It doesn't cost anything for a veteran to apply for benefits. You do need a high tolerance for paperwork. But if you were once in the military, you probably already know all about that. Before you initiate the process, make sure you have a copy of your military discharge papers. There are County Veterans Service Offices in most large counties. That's a good place to start because they'll help you navigate the paperwork.

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8 Comments
Hospital Beds
November 15, 2012 at 6:37 am

hi!,I really like your writing so much! share we keep up a correspondence extra approximately your article on AOL? I need an expert in this space to unravel my problem. May be that is you! Looking ahead to look you.

JEA
November 09, 2012 at 2:23 pm

I have already RESOLVED to NEVER use the VA because they would not help my father when he NEEDED it the most. They refused to help him because of their primitive and outdated regulations. Instead they opened the door to a premature DEATH. These ACTIONS have given me and the rest of his family MAJOR reasons to hang our collective heads in shame for a losing system that is detrimental to many Patriots that step up to help their COUNTRY. NEVER AGAIN!

gg
October 08, 2012 at 10:50 pm

Oh but not "Almost anyone" is eligible, it would be wiser to educate people on the three step criteria and it would help many veterans with claims in, hence, not overloading the system with BS claims.

gg
October 08, 2012 at 10:11 pm

30yrvet - Brother we are with you.+1

30yrvet
October 07, 2012 at 4:34 pm

Eieio,
If your husband does not have easy access to veterans health care then yes, he would be wise to sign up for part B. Even those with full VA medical benefits living near a VA facility may want to consider part B. You never know when facilities will close or benefits will be curtailed. Even Medicare itself (as we know it) may disappear.
This is a direct quote from the VA website:

"VA does not recommend Veterans cancel or decline coverage in Medicare (or other health care or insurance programs) solely
because they are enrolled in VA health care. Unlike Medicare, which offers the same benefits for all enrollees, VA assigns enrollees to priority levels, based on a variety of eligibility factors, such as service-connection and income. There is no guarantee that
in subsequent years Congress will appropriate sufficient medical care funds for VA to provide care for all enrollment priority
groups. This could leave Veterans, especially those enrolled in one of the lower-priority groups, with no access to VA health care
coverage. For this reason, having a secondary source of coverage may be in the Veteran’s best interest.
In addition, a Veteran may want to consider the flexibility afforded by enrolling in both VA and Medicare. For example, Veterans enrolled in both programs would have access to non-VA physicians (under Medicare Part A or Part B)"

Maybe your rep meant that given your husbands situation he SHOULD sign up for part B. In any event, double check with him because hes the expert!

eieio
October 07, 2012 at 3:32 pm

The Veterans Center Rep told my husband (I was there) that he does have to have Part B. He did not retire out of the service as he was only in for two years; one of those years in Vietnam as a medic. Therefore he does not have Tri-Care. He has worked in the private sector for 40 years plus. The Vet Rep said he can sign up for RX's through the VA thereby bypassing Part D. And since he is 30% rated disabled compensation, he is entitled to go the V.A.if he really wants but it is 250 miles round-trip. He would still need Part B. So according to 30yrvet the service rep is incorrect then? Our Vet Rep has been doing this for quite a number of years and I see no reason for him to steer my husband wrong. My husband does not want to go through the VA health care system for ALL medical. Especially his cardiologist and internist that he worked with through his career in the medical field.

30yrvet
October 07, 2012 at 2:58 pm

Veterans do not need to carry Medicare part B to collect veterans medical benefits. It is retired military persons who must opt for Medicare Part B to get "Tricare for Life" to continue receiving Tricare along with Medicare after turning 65. Tricare for Life then acts as a supplement to Medicare. If you are eligible for both VA health care and Tricare then you can choose either or both, but going with VA only saves you on the part B.

eieio
October 07, 2012 at 9:24 am

It is my understanding that a veteran on Medicare Part A MUST also carry Part B in order to get V.A. medical services. Yes, you can apply to get your perscriptions through the V.A. but there is quite a bit of paperwork as you stated to get that. This is especially true if you are trying to have the $8.00 RX copay waived which is income and asset based.

Also, for certain veterans social security will count your time in the service and calculate how much extra to add to your monthly SS check.

The best thing to do is go to your local Vet Center and they can guide a person to a slew of benefits a veteran may be entitled to. But again, if your income or assets are higher, you still can get some benefits but you will be subject to copays etc. And that is not so bad methinks. My husband is willing to pay the minimal copays, if necessary. Especially for medications.